Big Ideas in Astronomy | About

Big Ideas in Astronomy

A Proposed Definition of Astronomy Literacy

Astronomy for All.

This is the motto of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Astronomy Outreach. If "All" is a very vast term to define society and its communities, "Astronomy" as a body of knowledge is also similarly vast. This project, "Big Ideas in Astronomy", explores the issue: “What should citizens of planet Earth know about astronomy?”

As a result of several discussions, meetings, workshops, presentations, telecons and text interactions in this document we propose a set of Big Ideas in Astronomy, a Proposed Definition of Astronomy Literacy. This document establishes the “Big Ideas” and supporting concepts that all citizens of our planet should know about astronomy.

Big Ideas in Astronomy builds on the pioneering American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Project 2061. The AAAS Project 2061 started in 1986, the year Halley's Comet passed near Earth. The AAAS was intrigued by what affects children's connection to the natural world — who were starting school in 1986, and will see the return of the Comet. What scientific and technological changes will they also see in their lifetime? How can education prepare them to make sense of how the world works; to think critically and independently; and to lead interesting, responsible, and productive lives in a culture increasingly shaped by science and technology? Big Ideas in Astronomy also expands on the work developed by other scientific disciplines and projects, namely: Climate Science Literacy, Earth Science Literacy Principles, Ocean Literacy and Big Ideas of Science.

Big Ideas in Astronomy presents eleven Big Ideas and expands on them through sub-ideas and additional information. This document is designed with educators and astronomers in mind, it is a guiding document to decide which topics they should address in their teaching, training sessions, outreach activities or resources development. However, this needs to be a dynamic document, and we welcome comments and remarks from the astronomy community, the astronomy education community and the science education community.

Our next step is the further development of this document, by undertaking a research project to systematically validate this document as an accurate representation of what experts think as astronomy literacy. Following this, we will be working on:

  • Curriculum development aligned with these Big Ideas
  • Development of assessment tools for the Big Ideas
  • Educational materials guides
  • Teacher professional development materials
  • Policy-reports

The 2020-2030 IAU Strategic Plan places astronomy education at the core of the global astronomy endeavour. The IAU has set the goal to foster the use of astronomy for teaching and education at school level. We hope that this document contributes to this goal and provides the first analysis and framework of astronomy literacy goals for education.